Premiere: Meet YVNGDA, whose new single STFU is a powerful, anti-racist statement
The Perth musician's new single is a sparse, electronic song about the racist reaction to the COVID pandemic - and it's an incredibly powerful moment.
YVNGDA is a name you should know within Perth's electronic space. Over the last few years, he's become a go-to figure amongst Perth's late-night culture and is someone indebted to the community that thrives amongst it, as shown both through his support of other artists - particularly those from Perth building and developing their career - and in his work that sits alongside that, such as collaborating with one-to-watch JAMIE BVLLET on his single Drunk Kids last year.
Another reason you should know the name YVNGDA relates to STFU, his powerful debut single that premieres today as an introduction to the artist and the person behind the name, as well as everything he stands for and thrives for in his work. STFU is a statement; a welcoming to his sound and the versatility that shows within it - when you contrast it against something like Drunk Kids, for example - as subtle synth work dances amongst shuttering percussion, combining his expertise in both classical instrumentation and synthetic, modern-day electronic production.
The most impactful thing about STFU, however - the thing that makes it such a potent release - is what's embedded within the song's context and meaning. It's a song that came from the pandemic, as YVNGDA - a Zambian-born, Australian-based musician with Chinese heritage - observed and experienced accounts of anti-Asian racism in the backlash to the pandemic; a time which sadly, has exposed so much xenophobia within communities both in Australia and overseas.
STFU tackles that, channelling the frustration and storm of emotions he felt into a powerful, cathartic release that sees YVNGDA emerge from the other side empowered and connected to himself, with a message about knowing your place and thinking before you speak. "I wrote STFU during the first lockdown last year after seeing all the mindless hatred being spread to the Asian community," he says. "I went into the studio with this frustration and this was the result. This song is a reminder to STFU and think before speaking."
It's an impressive and powerful release from YVNGDA, that serves as an introduction to his work on a solo level - especially after years of collaboration and work behind-the-scenes. Now, he's stepping into the limelight himself, and STFU is one worthy introduction.
Take a dive into the single below as it premieres on Pilerats today, and underneath, better acquaint yourself with YVNGDA ahead of his big remainder of 2021 (and beyond...).
Tell us about yourself?
What up Pilerats! My name is Yangda (pronounced ‘Yung-Dah’) and I’m a producer/songwriter based in Perth, Western Australia :) The ‘Yang’ in my name means foreign in Chinese, and I guess this makes sense since I was born in Zambia, and then raised in Australia by a Chinese family… everywhere I go I am somewhat of a foreigner, but I revel in embracing the differences.
Coming from a classically trained piano background, my tastes gradually shifted as I fell in love with Hip-Hop, Pop and Electronic music growing up. Instead of becoming a doctor, I wanted to be more like Dr Dre… so after tinkering around on Garageband when I was 12, then secretly applying for the composition course at WAAPA (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) after high school, I decided to pursue music full time. In this chaotic world, music is the only thing that makes sense to me so this felt like the natural decision, but of course this is a very privileged position to be in so I am eternally grateful to be making music every day.
I am proud to call Perth/Boorloo my home as I have met so many incredible people growing up here from all different backgrounds, and the music scene is extremely inspiring. Through institutions like WAAPA and Lab Six, and also going to epic local gigs - I have made many close creative friends who I work with frequently!
What’s your music like? What does it sound like? What kind of themes does it usually cover?
I always find it hard to describe my music, but I am definitely heavily influenced by Hip-hop, Trap, Pop, Electronic and even Classical. I try to meld all these genres and styles together to create something unique and ‘genre-less.’ I have my older brother to thank for exposing me to Hip Hop at a young age… He’d be blasting Eminem and 50 Cent around the house when I was 6, and although I had no idea what the rappers were saying - the infectious vocal/synth melodies and heavy drum beats would be stuck in my head forever. I think Hip Hop is so inspirational because it has always been about being authentic, whilst also pushing boundaries, experimenting and moving music forward. As we can see now, Hip Hop is the most popular genre/style because the artists of the last few decades weren’t afraid to experiment with other genres through sampling and breaking the ‘rules.’
Artists like Kanye, Kid Cudi, Flume, Skrillex and Billie Eilish are great examples of always bending genres and consistently staying unique regardless of critical reception. In fact, Beethoven was actually one of the original ‘Sadbois’ from the 1700s who went against the classical sound of the time and tried a more emotional approach to composition.
I like to take all these influences and combine them together, so if you listen to a previous collab I released with JAMIE BVLLET titled Drunk Kids, you’ll hear swung hip hop drums with catchy pop vocal lines, a trap inspired drop section and some warped classical piano.
I’m also influenced by concepts of duality, and try to incorporate two or more opposing sound palettes and sections into my songs which eventually harmonise together. If someone hears my song and thinks ‘wtf was that sound?’ at any point, then I think I’ve done my job…
What are your production and writing processes usually like?
It can be different every time - there are endless ways to start a song but I generally like to play around on piano; whether it’s some chord progressions or a melodic idea. For inspiration, I usually start writing based on how I’m feeling, or how a recent experience has affected me.
From there I just keep adding elements and create a huge mess until it sounds way too full. Then it’s time to subtract and take away elements, re-arrange them and structure the song. The key is to not overthink during the writing process, and just let ideas flow regardless if they’re good or not. ‘Write drunk, edit sober’ is an approach that makes sense to me. However, this is easier said than done, as I still find myself getting stuck on one silly sound and not moving forward with the rest of the song…
One way around getting stuck is to work with other musicians, and I’m lucky to have a few talented collaborators who always bring fresh ideas during the writing process!
Can you tell us about your new single, STFU?
I wrote this song during the first lockdown last year after seeing all the mindless hatred being spread online and in person towards the Asian community due to COVID. I went into my studio with all this emotion built up and began playing some melodies on the keyboard, and even recorded myself saying "STFU" into my laptop mic… After putting together some hip-hop influenced drums, thicc 808 basses and lush synths, eventually this song is what came out.
Structurally this song is similar to the ‘Yin and Yang’ concept, where two opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected - The verse sections are a bit more laid back and reserved, whereas the ‘drop’ sections are quite high energy and in your face, however the verse melody eventually interconnects with the ‘drop’ melody in the final section of the song completing this ‘Yin and Yang’ duality. And of course I had to end it with the piano outro so all those years of classical training didn’t go to waste.
This song is my way of venting those frustrations and saying STFU to all the negativity, whether it’s from people, social media and the news, or even from within myself. I’d like to believe that even though we seem more divided than ever, there is some sort of hope that can bring us together eventually if we could just take a step back, STFU and think before we speak/act :)
Aside from all my personal connections to the song, it really is just a chill electronic banger and the audience can decide how they want to interpret it!
PS. big shout out to Rhys Prewett-Martin who helped design all the artwork and brought this song to life visually <3
What do you have planned for the rest of 2021?
I have a lot more music in the works! More solo YVNGDA records, collaborations and also some behind the scenes production work too.
One song I’ll mention is another collab with JAMIE BVLLET titled Weekend. We actually made it last year and submitted the demo to a competition run by MixedbyAli (Kendrick Lamar’s Sound Engineer) and he chose our song to be in the top 10 shortlist to be mixed by him… We didn’t get through the public voting stage but we have pretty much finished the song off now, so be on the lookout for that one if you wanna hear another catchy pop/electronic tune!
PS. STFU visualiser is also coming very soon, stay tuned to Youtube for that!
What do you want people to take away from your work?
I don’t expect everyone to vibe with my music, but if they do then that’s great! I just try to make music that feels real to me, and if it can resonate with another person then that’s more than enough. Eventually I wanna build an empire and become a Christian Genius Billionaire like Kanye, but for now the music is enough :)
Where can we find more of your music?
Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube, Soundcloud and pretty much any streaming platform!
STFU will be available on all streaming platforms on Friday the 13th.